Fears that prices of bread and biscuits could rise due to wet weather

Fears that prices of bread and biscuits could rise due to wet weather

This year’s unprecedented wet weather may still have an impact on some key crops and ultimately lead to an increase in the price of bread, biscuits and beer, according to a new report.

A ‘washout winter’ means that the production of wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape may be down by 17.5%, according to an Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) report.

The analysis from ECIU is based on Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) crop area forecasts and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) yield data.

Battling to establish crops in one of the wettest winters on record, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned that the extreme weather associated with climate change presents one of the biggest threats to UK food security.

Tom Lancaster, land analyst at ECIU said: “This washout winter is playing havoc with farmers’ fields leading to soils so waterlogged they cannot be planted or too wet for tractors to apply fertilisers.

“This is likely to mean not only a financial hit for farmers, but higher imports as we look to plug the gap left by a shortfall in UK supply. There’s also a real risk that the price of bread, beer and biscuits could increase as the poor harvest may lead to higher costs.”

He added that in order to withstand wetter winters that will come from climate change, farmers need more support.

“The government’s green farming schemes are vital to this, helping farmers to invest in their soils to allow them to recover faster from both floods and droughts,” he said.

Farmers have been faced with sodden fields. Photo: UFU

The wetter winter weather is a particular concern for the UK’s wheat harvest, with the ECIU estimating that wheat production could be down by up to 26.5% compared to 2023. Milling wheat used to make bread could be hit particularly hard, as it needs to meet higher quality requirements that will be more difficult for farmers to achieve with the wet weather.

Additionally, with the premium for milling wheat over feed wheat at historically high levels, the ECIU added that many farmers are set to lose out on income.

UK millers normally source approximately 80% of their wheat from British farms, a figure it says it likely to be well down after this year’s harvest. As a result, it has led to one of the UK’s biggest bread makers warning that the price of a loaf could increase.

“Farmers are saying this is the worst winter they’ve ever experienced,” added Tom Lancaster.

“Coming just as food prices were coming down after the gas price crisis, the public will now rightly fear what this means for the cost of their weekly shop. Given half our food comes from abroad, the UK will have to ensure farmers are supported here in the UK, but also in countries that grow the fruit and other staples we can’t, that are also being battered by weather extremes.”